Art Confidential Magazine Summer Edition 2021
A Luxury Lifestyle Magazine Dedicated to the World of Art
|SHANE GUFFOGG AT THE STILL POINT|
|Written by Only Sweetman|
Photographs by JL Cederblom
|Shane Guffogg grew up in the agricultural heartbeat of California’s Central Valley on his parent’s exotic bird farm, Marke’s Aviaries. He learned from a young age the importance of a strident work ethic while dreaming of one day becoming an artist. The Strathmore, Lindsay, Exeter agricultural corridor in the San Joaquin Valley is Guffogg’s grounding force behind his rise to prominence as a critical voice in the Los Angeles art scene and his emergence as an international artist of note. This region is also “John Steinbeck Country” where Steinbeck sourced the majority of his literary works that resulted in his 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. Guffogg has returned to make his mark in the community which he was raised and connect it to Los Angeles, Milan, and cities around the world through the power of art. |
The journey to Guffogg’s current residence is one filled with dusty roads, open landscape, and beautiful countryside many times forgotten when thinking of California’s more popularized coastal region. Not the expected setting to find an artist of Shane Guffogg’s caliber, but not all that surprising either. The present-day Guffogg Estates Art Ranch is the home and exotic bird farm where Guffogg was born and raised. It was originally a schoolhouse named Prairie Center in 1904 teaching all subjects to kindergarten through 8th grade. Its focus was on agriculture for the farming children throughout this sprawling Central Valley community. This schoolhouse was also the site and final setting of Steinbeck’s 1939, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath. For the last several years, Guffogg has been converting the property from its former use to a vibrant refuge of art and artmaking. His vision is to transform the space and bring a rich culture of art to the region. While he has only just begun this next stage of his life and art career, Shane is no stranger to the task. He has done it before, perhaps in a larger way, in Downtown Los Angeles. However, the work he has embarked on now may have more meaning and impact on young artists in the Central Valley who must find their voice and way in the world.
Guffogg left Strathmore to study art at Cal Arts. There he received his B.F.A., while intermittently interning in New York, traveling to the Soviet Union on a Peace Walk, and then Europe where he first witnessed the work of the European Masters. It was at the National Gallery in London where Guffogg first saw a Rembrandt in person. Up until then, his only viewings had been drawings and paintings in printed art books.
|Guffogg had a spiritual experience gazing into Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 dated 1669. It was one of Rembrandt’s last known self-portraits painted in the year of his death. This was the moment that Guffogg, against all odds, sensed he was destined to be a celebrated painter. |
From Cal Arts, Shane relocated to Venice Beach and began working as a studio assistant for internationally renowned Ed Ruscha. Ruscha had gained prominence since the 1960s as a leading founder of the LA Art School. His employ by Ruscha lasted from 1989 to 1995 – a critical period of time when Ruscha’s career was launching into the international art realm. Shane was immersed in the Los Angeles art scene and mentored by the great male artists of that time whose relevance remain important to artist movements today.
In addition to Ruscha, these included Joe Goode and Billy Al Bengston, whom all showed at the Ferus Gallery. It was while being documented by actor and photographer Dennis Hopper that they became referred to as “The Cool School.” From exposure to these great artists, Shane Guffogg learned everything he now employs in his own artistic rise to becoming a critical voice in the Los Angeles and international art scene.
In the early 2000s, Shane started a collective of talented Los Angeles painters, which launched the Pharmaka Gallery in 2004. The group converted a former restaurant into a nonprofit gallery space on the corner of 5th and Main in Downtown Los Angeles. At that time it was one street north of Skid Row in LA’s Historic Bank District. In concert with the Pharmaka painters, its nonprofit board, major donors, and Bert Green Fine Art, as well as a few other small galleries, Guffogg’s brainchild was initiated and the Downtown Art Walk was born. What began as less than 100 people (consisting mostly of the artists themselves and a few art enthusiasts) grew into 4,000 attendees streaming through the doors of Pharmaka on a single night, and 20,000 plus filling the streets of Downtown. Thus, other galleries began flocking to the area. While serving as a member of Pharmaka’s board, it was thrilling to watch this dream grow from idea to fruition. Eventually, Guffogg petitioned the city, along with other leaders in this art movement, to establish the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District.
For the past 30 years, Guffogg has worked and lived at the Western Avenue Art Collective Studios, building his body of work where his paintings evolved into their present-day abstract, large-scale. The late Leslie Sacks, a blue-chip gallery owner in Brentwood, began representing and showing Guffogg in 2008. He quickly grew into one of Leslie Sacks Gallery’s favored contemporary artists whose work could carry on an art historical dialogue with the European Masters in her collection. Drawing on the vast experience he had amassed from working with famed artists, immense traveling, and the creative culture of Los Angeles, Guffogg’s art-making remained heavily influenced by the natural landscape he had grown up in.
While remodeling a gallery in West Hollywood, Guffogg unfortunately lost his middle finger during a construction accident. This proved as a mixed blessing, forcing him to return to the family home in Strathmore where the inception of his present-day Ribbon Paintings was conceived along with his early work in On Your Mark (1988). This initial ribbon painting eventually evolved into Shadows in Motion (2008) – stemming from a body of work he refers to as his Pattern Paintings that were exhibited at Leslie Sacks Gallery until her untimely death. It was with these seminal works that his conversation about the universal human experience began to evolve into a visual language. A language he continues to perfect, refine, and experiment, pushing beyond the edges of his canvases. Each work is a meditation on the ancient past, present, and future of the space-time continuum. A concept we all consciously or unconsciously take part in. Each work invites the viewer to explore the realm of the canvas and, in turn, ask deeper questions of the mystery of human existence and our existential place in the world.
THE WORLD STAGE
In 2012, Guffogg had his first international solo show 1990-2012: A Retrospective at the Pianta Villa di Donato in Naples, Italy. The event showcased a newly created body of work alongside his earliest pieces conceived in Strathmore as well as those created during his time with the Leslie Sacks and Pharmaka Art galleries. In 2015, Guffogg’s The Observer is Observed, which featured 76 works of art spanning 25 years, was presented at the Academia National Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, followed by its travel to the National Gallery in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2017. In December 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Guffogg’s Path of Light was featured at the Casa Regis Center for Culture and Contemporary Art in Mosso Valdilana, Italy. It has the honor of being one of the first exhibitions in this newly opened art center and residency in the hill towns of Piedmont in Northern Italy.
Guffogg’s work continues to evolve as he does in his artistic practice. His now converted studio space was once home to hundreds of rare and exotic birds. From that space, Guffogg has brought forth beautiful works like 2019’s A Rose is a Rose is a Rose #5 from a series of the same name that he continues today. From 2009 to 2016, Guffogg began his At the Still Point series, which is meant to be meditative for the viewer as well as reflective of the intense sociopolitical landscape our nation has endured as we find our way through the pandemic. At the Still Point of the Turning World – Only Through Time is Time Conquered(2017) is a large-scale work that begins the crescendo of the still-point paintings he continues to make today.
We know from Quantum Physics that the forward progression of time may bend back and forth from the past to the future and is not always on one straightforward trajectory. The same is true with the continuum of art; we see culture regress before it progresses. Shane’s work deals with these mind-bending topics in a lyrical visual narrative of his own.
As Downtown Los Angeles’ rents rose and the Great Recession of 2008 hit, Pharmaka Gallery was eventually closed in 2009 leaving in its place a rich artist center that brought new life to the DTLA community. A consummate humanitarian with endless levels of ambition to build his career, Guffogg takes with him this massive accomplishment of helping transform the DTLA community to the resurgence of art in Strathmore.
Sharing his time between the Western Art Collective in Los Angeles and the Guffogg Estate Art Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, Guffogg intends to engage and mold his hometown and local community with art. His plans are to establish this agricultural community as a destination in the Central Valley for wine, cuisine, and art. Aspects that it’s neighboring Visalia and nearby coastal region of Paso Robles are already well known for statewide and beyond. This vision begins on his art ranch, where he is growing a vineyard that will be bottled as a small vintage of wine with lineage to old vine grapes originally brought from Europe. A vintage grafted with heat-resistant and hearty local California vines. In partnership with Exeter’s French Chef Fred Imbert of nearby Café Lafayette, Guffogg plans on hosting art events for his collectors but more importantly for the local artists in the region. He intends to build a rich artistic fabric in the communities of Strathmore, Lindsay, and Exeter where young artists can have a platform for their work and a support system that will usher them into pursuing art.
As we continue spinning feverishly around the sun, against all odds during this flashpoint of enviro-socio-political challenges in the (hopeful) tail-end of a worldwide pandemic, Guffogg has a still point in Strathmore where people can converge, engage with art, the natural world, wine and hyper-local California cuisine in an effort of celebrating humanity in spite of it all.
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